Could steam cars be possible in the 2020s?

Summary:

I was wondering if electric could be use to boil the water to power a steam car for modern use ?? Also why haven't steam cars being developed more for the 2020's?

Main Question or Discussion Point

I was wondering if electric could be use to boil the water to power a steam car for modern use ?? Also why haven't steam cars being developed more for the 2020's?

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russ_watters
Mentor
I was wondering if electric could be use to boil the water to power a steam car for modern use ?? Also why haven't steam cars being developed more for the 2020's?
They could, but there are a couple of big downsides:
-Steam plants take a long time to warm up.
-A steam plant would be a very inefficient way to use electricity.

The 1924 model Doble Series E steam car could run for 1,500 miles (2,400 km) before its 24-gallon water tank needed to be refilled; even in freezing weather, it could be started from cold and move off within 30 seconds, and once fully warmed could be relied upon to reach speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour (140 km/h)

modern materials and technology maybe a series of tubes of different size to produce pressures or a sealed system with recovery recharge ?

The 1924 model Doble Series E steam car could run for 1,500 miles (2,400 km) before its 24-gallon water tank needed to be refilled; even in freezing weather, it could be started from cold and move off within 30 seconds, and once fully warmed could be relied upon to reach speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour (140 km/h)
At the cost of being 3 times heavier than contemporary automobiles with internal combustion motors, with all associated handicaps. Steam engine intrinsically low power density to blame.

Baluncore
2019 Award
I was wondering if electric could be use to boil the water to power a steam car for modern use ?? Also why haven't steam cars being developed more for the 2020's?
It is more efficient to operate and control an electric motor than a boiler and a steam engine.
The steam era only looks good in retrospect, when the negatives can be ignored.

The 1924 model Doble Series E steam car could run for 1,500 miles (2,400 km) before its 24-gallon water tank needed to be refilled;
Water is a working fluid, not a fuel. Presumably the vehicle had an exhaust condenser so it could recycle water, and that 24 gallons was lost through leakage at a rate of 1 gallon per 60 miles.

I wonder how much fuel the vehicle required to run the same distance.

How'bout steam/air ? Keep a puddle in the air-tank/boiler to sop up compression heat when refilling with air, then boil up the puddle when further range is required.

anorlunda
Mentor
I love steam engines. I wish it was true. But consider the fate of railroad locomotives.

A locomotive can be very big and very heavy compared to a car. That makes it much easier to use than a steam in a car engine. Yet steam locomotives were abandoned in favor of electric or diesel-electric. There must be a reason.

45 years ago I had a fantasy about a car that would back up to the nearest nuclear reactor and fill up with nearly boiling hot water at 1000 psi (70 bar). Then the car drives producing steam as the water is allowed to boil away. The car could use clean nuclear energy. Nuclear reactors are 3 times more efficient heating water than making electricity.

My fantasy stopped when I considered the consequences of an accident where the water tank burst.

I love steam engines. I wish it was true. But consider the fate of railroad locomotives.

A locomotive can be very big and very heavy compared to a car. That makes it much easier to use than a steam in a car engine. Yet steam locomotives were abandoned in favor of electric or diesel-electric. There must be a reason.

45 years ago I had a fantasy about a car that would back up to the nearest nuclear reactor and fill up with nearly boiling hot water at 1000 psi (70 bar). Then the car drives producing steam as the water is allowed to boil away. The car could use clean nuclear energy. Nuclear reactors are 3 times more efficient heating water than making electricity.

My fantasy stopped when I considered the consequences of an accident where the water tank burst.
same argument as hydrogen scared of tanks rupturing petrol is just dangerous,flammable yet we drive round everyday What temperature can be produced outside of nuclear i.e geo-thermal heated,solar or wind? definite mirror array's in hotter/sunnier countries?

The 1924 model Doble Series E steam car could run for 1,500 miles (2,400 km) before its 24-gallon water tank needed to be refilled
Let's continue with the citation:
Its fuel consumption, burning a variety of fuels (often kerosene), was competitive with automobiles of the day
Wiki

In the article Ford T was mentioned for comparison (of acceleration), so let's take that as 'automobile of the day'.

According to Ford Motor Company, the Model T had fuel economy on the order of 13–21 mpg‑US (16–25 mpg‑imp; 18–11 L/100 km)
Wiki
Nice, actually.

On the other hand: this also means that the very best and most complicated steam automobile was good enough to be compared to the first series-production, barely usable internal fuel-roasters (let's not mention it as 'combustion')(let's not talk about efficiency and such too).

russ_watters
Mentor
How'bout steam/air ? Keep a puddle in the air-tank/boiler to sop up compression heat when refilling with air, then boil up the puddle when further range is required.
You haven't said anything (besides the incorrect range claim) that sounds like an advantage. Why would we want to do any of this? What do we win?

https://www.physicsforums.com/goto/post?id=6286579
russ_waters said:
hmmm27 said:
How'bout steam/air ? Keep a puddle in the air-tank/boiler to sop up compression heat when refilling with air(1), then boil up the puddle(2) when further(3) range is required.
You haven't said anything (besides the incorrect range claim) that sounds like an advantage. Why would we want to do any of this? What do we win?
1 Using an amount of water in the tank as thermal mass would improve pneumatic operation. The high heat capacity would slow pressure loss due to internal temperature decrease during both operation and stagnation, and mitigate the need to pre-cool injected air during pneumatic fill-ups.

2 For the off-handedly proposed steam/air hybrid, its two media share the pressure tank and motor.

The advantage of a combined system is full range coverage :
burner off : compressed air only, providing a quick start and some range ;
burner on low : adding a bit of range to pneumatic operation ;
burner on high : steam operation, for long distance ranges.

3 Had I thought about it, "farther" might have been the better choice than "further", but "range" is not a direct measurement of distance, ie: the choice is between "the contraption allows the vehicle further range"(as used) vs "the contraption allows the vehicle to go farther"(alternative). Unless you meant something else by "incorrect range claim".

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jack action
Gold Member
AFAIK, the last time steam cars were seriously considered was by GM in the late sixties. Jay Leno has an experimental 1969 Pontiac Gran Prix, steam-powered.

1969 PONTIAC GRAND PRIX
A steam-powered, four-cylinder 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix? It’s true: GM engineers were so sweating California emissions legislation in the late 1960s that they went to extraordinary lengths–including building a steam-powered Grand Prix for evaluation. The in-house-developed GM SE-101 used a 160hp, four-cylinder expander, and let technicians evaluate a steam engine under actual operating conditions.

“It’s similar to the Doble in principle,” Jay tells us. “It burns all of the fuel, so emissions are low, but you need to carry oil, water and gas. It’s the only functioning steam car with power steering and brakes. They had to stretch the nose nine inches to accommodate the engine. It worked, but fuel consumption is too high.” Not helping: an extra 450 pounds over the front wheels, with an engine putting out half the power. “Modernizing steam is a bit like working on the best Betamax video recorder… you know, technology has moved on, so why go back?” GM clearly agreed, and the experiment was stillborn.
Even if you electrically boil the water, the steam engine efficiency will always be far less than feeding an electric motor directly. If you add the transmission losses, it's even worse (compared to an electric wheel motor, that is).

It is more efficient to operate and control an electric motor than a boiler and a steam engine.
Even if you electrically boil the water, the steam engine efficiency will always be far less than feeding an electric motor directly.
Just to drive this home, the difference in efficiency is not a small detail, nor a small difference. The steam plant would probably put 25% of the battery energy to the wheels, where the electric motor would put more like 85% of the battery energy to the wheels. So with the same battery, the motor-driven car could go about three times as far as the steam-driven car.

Just to drive this home, the difference in efficiency is not a small detail, nor a small difference. The steam plant would probably put 25% of the battery energy to the wheels, where the electric motor would put more like 85% of the battery energy to the wheels. So with the same battery, the motor-driven car could go about three times as far as the steam-driven car.
Why would anybody consider using batteries to heat a steam car's boiler ? Unless maybe you're out of gas and really really need a large cup of tea, or something.

OmCheeto
Gold Member
... Presumably the vehicle had an exhaust condenser so it could recycle water, and that 24 gallons was lost through leakage at a rate of 1 gallon per 60 miles.
According to Jay Leno, the manufacturer's quote of 1500 miles per tank of water was a bit optimistic.
He gets 300 miles / tank full in the winter, and 75 miles/ tank full in the summer. Though living in Los Angeles, I'm surprised there's that much difference.
[Ref video #1 @ 13:55]
And you presumed correctly that the vehicles use exhaust condensers.

I wonder how much fuel the vehicle required to run the same distance.
I watched two of Jay's videos regarding Doblers. I didn't catch in either where he mentioned gas mileage.

I was amazed at the price of the vehicle: $20,000 [Ref video #2 @ 05:00] Which according to an online inflation calculator, that's equivalent to$300,000 today!

Fun set of videos! I learned a lot:
There are only 13 steps to start the car.
etc, etc, etc.

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Why would anybody consider using batteries to heat a steam car's boiler ? Unless maybe you're out of gas and really really need a large cup of tea, or something.
I don't know. Ask the OP, what was the original idea? What does "electric" mean in terms of a car?
I was wondering if electric could be use to boil the water to power a steam car for modern use ?? Also why haven't steam cars being developed more for the 2020's?